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Benedict XVI's Assessment of 2005

1/9/2006 - 6:00 AM PST

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Address to Members of the Roman Curia

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 9, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is Benedict XVI's address, delivered on Dec. 22, to cardinals, archbishops, bishops and members of the Roman Curia in the traditional exchange of Christmas greetings.

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Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia
Offering Them His Christmas Greetings

Thursday, 22 December 2005

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"'Expergiscere, homo: quia pro te Deus factus est homo' -- Wake up, O man! For your sake God became man" (St. Augustine, "Sermo," 185). With the Christmas celebrations now at hand, I am opening my Meeting with you, dear collaborators of the Roman Curia, with St. Augustine's invitation to understand the true meaning of Christ's birth.

I address to each one my most cordial greeting and I thank you for the sentiments of devotion and affection, effectively conveyed to me by your Cardinal Dean, to whom I address my gratitude.

God became man for our sake: This is the message which, every year, from the silent grotto of Bethlehem spreads even to the most out-of-the-way corners of the earth. Christmas is a feast of light and peace, it is a day of inner wonder and joy that expands throughout the universe, because "God became man." From the humble grotto of Bethlehem, the eternal Son of God, who became a tiny Child, addresses each one of us: He calls us, invites us to be reborn in him so that, with him, we may live eternally in communion with the Most Holy Trinity.

Our hearts brimming with the joy that comes from this knowledge, let us think back to the events of the year that is coming to an end. We have behind us great events which have left a deep mark on the life of the Church. I am thinking first and foremost of the departure of our beloved Holy Father John Paul II, preceded by a long period of suffering and the gradual loss of speech. No Pope has left us such a quantity of texts as he has bequeathed to us; no previous Pope was able to visit the whole world like him and speak directly to people from all the continents.

In the end, however, his lot was a journey of suffering and silence. Unforgettable for us are the images of Palm Sunday when, holding an olive branch and marked by pain, he came to the window and imparted the Lord's Blessing as he himself was about to walk toward the Cross.

Next was the scene in his Private Chapel when, holding the Crucifix, he took part in the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum, where he had so often led the procession carrying the Cross himself.

Lastly came his silent Blessing on Easter Sunday, in which we saw the promise of the Resurrection, of eternal life, shine out through all his suffering. With his words and actions, the Holy Father gave us great things; equally important is the lesson he imparted to us from the chair of suffering and silence.

In his last book "Memory and Identity" (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2005), he has left us an interpretation of suffering that is not a theological or philosophical theory but a fruit that matured on his personal path of suffering which he walked, sustained by faith in the Crucified Lord. This interpretation, which he worked out in faith and which gave meaning to his suffering lived in communion with that of the Lord, spoke through his silent pain, transforming it into an important message.

Both at the beginning and once again at the end of the book mentioned, the Pope shows that he is deeply touched by the spectacle of the power of evil, which we dramatically experienced in the century that has just ended. He says in his text: "The evil ... was not a small-scale evil. ... It was an evil of gigantic proportions, an evil which availed itself of state structures in order to accomplish its wicked work, an evil built up into a system" (p. 189).

Might evil be invincible? Is it the ultimate power of history? Because of the experience of evil, for Pope Wojtyla the question of redemption became the essential and central question of his life and thought as a Christian. Is there a limit against which the power of evil shatters? "Yes, there is," the Pope replies in this book of his, as well as in his encyclical on redemption.

The power that imposes a limit on evil is Divine Mercy. Violence, the display of evil, is opposed in history -- as "the totally other" of God, God's own power -- by Divine Mercy. The Lamb is stronger than the dragon, we could say together with the Book of Revelation.

At the end of the book, in a retrospective review of the attack of 13 May 1981 and on the basis of the experience of his journey with God and with the world, John Paul II further deepened this answer.

What limits the force of evil, the power, in brief, which overcomes it -- ...

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